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|Index||135 reviews in total|
I picked up the cover of this film several times before I rented it.
The subject somewhat interested me but I also thought it was too
familiar, almost like a cliché. (Someone finds out he/she is dying and
it changes his/her life.) There are so many reasons why I am now so
glad that I finally did rent it and I am sure most of them have been
covered by other user-comments. The acting was convincing, the
soundtrack was great etc. but what I liked most and what moved me most
was how it sincerely and beautifully conveyed messages of love, not
only Ann's love of her family, friends and lovers but the love she
found of herself and of life itself, awakened by the discovery of her
I watched the film by myself and I recommend that you do so also, not because you will get emotional and may start to cry, which you might, but because you will probably be more honest to yourself in your thoughts if you are all alone. If you are dishonest to yourself you are leading a life without you.
The plot of this beautiful film seems a trivial melodrama, but the way
it was told by scriptwriter/director Isabel Coixet makes a great
difference. What could have turned into a hollow movie only made to
make you cry, became a deep, witty and truly heartbreaking personal
journey into a young woman's mind, Ann (beautifully performed by Sarah
Polley). Ann is 23 years old, has two little daughters and one
attentive husband, Don (Scott Speedman). They're poor and live in a
trailer settled down at Ann's mother's back yard, but they're happy.
When Ann gets to know that she has a terminal cancer which is going to
kill her in a couple of months, she decides to live to the fullest -
and doesn't tell anyone about her weak health state.
Isabel Coixet led everything wonderfully, and the entire cast is magnificent (even Scott Speedman is pretty good). Amanda Plummer, as Ann's obsessed-with-food friend, proves definitely her taste for bizarre characters (what's far from being a fault, in her case); Deborah Harry is surprising as Ann's bitter mother; Mark Ruffalo (one of the best actors nowadays), as a lonely man who falls in love with Ann, is captivating and passionate, and Leonor Watling is not only a beautiful Spanish girl. Maria de Medeiros and Alfred Molina enrich the film with their small parts. Everyone is great, but Sarah Polley definitely rules. She is much more talented than 95% of current Hollywood young "stars". Gwyneth Paltrow, for instance, would be ridiculous as Ann; but as Sarah Polley hasn't got 'starpower', she didn't even get an Oscar nomination. It's OK. Sarah doesn't need an Academy Award to prove her talent, and we won a great actress.
"My Life Without Me" shows off Sarah Polley's beauty and acting that has
been clear to her fans since her "Avonlea" days.
In writer/director Isabel Coixet's first English language feature, Polley takes what could have been a drippy, maudlin story of a dying young mother and turns it into a clear-eyed path to accepting early death and taking charge of the hand that's dealt you. This delicate view is in sharp contrast to Hollywood tripe like "Sweet November" where beautiful healthy women in denial die of Movie Star Disease.
When Polley's "Ann" gets her death sentence from a doctor who can't even look her in the eyes, she resolves, among other items on her "To Do Before I Die" list, to tell it like it is -- but finds that instead everyone around her spills out their inner-most problems and she doesn't get to, including an amusing effort to get a Milli Vanilli-loving hairdresser to cut her hair like she wants it. Perhaps it's because she chooses to lie to them about her imminent demise. Not only does Polley get to use her full-fledged Canadian accent complete with "Eh"s, but until I read it on her imdb bio I didn't know that when she was 11 Polley lost her mother to cancer, so she must have had personal experience to draw on.
The imdb credits do not include that the script is based on a short story by Nanci Kincaid, "Pretending the Bed is a Raft," with additional inspiration from a poem about a young women's death by John Berger, who is thanked prominently in the credits. The symbolism of Ann having met her husband at the last Nirvana concert is also played upon several times.
The music selections are lovely, both the romantic-sounding European ballads from one character's sister's DJ mix tape and the original music by Alfonso Vilallonga, that are poignant and keep out the schmaltz.
Polley's supporting actors are wonderful, from the lively children to Amanda Plummer, who has been MIA from films for a while, and Debbie Harry as the depressed mother.
There's a couple of resonances of the TV show "Felicity" as not only does "Ann" leave voiced-over audio tapes to her loved ones, but, yikes, even dying, "Ann" gets both gorgeous sensitive hunks Scott Speadmen and Mark Ruffalo to love her. It's effectively shown, though, that one was the love of an adolescence that ended too soon with parental responsibilities and the other of her too-short adulthood.
Ann lives in a trailer with her considerate but not very
thought-provoking husband and their two children. The trailer is very
crowded and so is Anna's life. A mother at 17 Anna has never had any
time to ponder about her life but she knows it might not be very
fulfilling. When she finds out that she is terminally ill she has to
face the choices she has made and that was made for her. She decides to
make a list of all the things she wants do in the short time she has
left, both big and small. This is where Mark Ruffalos character, a
considerate and thought-provoking love-interest, makes an entrance.
This films moves slowly towards the inevitable end without ever becoming boring. The relationships between the characters are displayed by emotions and subtlety rather than words. The film has a very sad theme but is in many ways very hopeful. It shows that life can trap people down but also that every person has something special which can be used to change lives. I found this film to be warm, unsentimental, thoughtful, sad and uplifting. A bit like life itself.
If you liked this film as much as I did I can recommend Wilbur wants to kill himself and Before sunset.
This is without a doubt, the saddest, but most beautiful movie I have ever seen. It really touched me. The acting is superb, the plot heartrending and thought provoking, and the cinematography outstanding. I spent 2 hours blubbering like a schoolgirl, and it was worth every second. The simple fact that one's life can seem not to have started until the point where one's own mortality is realized is a revelation to me. This movie has opened my eyes to the importance of life and love. Money, power, fame, all are fleeting and can be lost in a moment to illness, famine, war, or fate. It is those around us, and our relationships to them, that are the things to be held most dear in our final accounting.
Really, this film should be too much to bear. An attractive young mother discovers she has 2 months to live and sets about trying to make use of her time doing things for herself and the people she loves; but keeping her diagnosis to herself. The film intentionally concentrates on the start of this period, allowing it to soft-focus the pain, and from a certain perspective, everything works out with an almost synthetic convenience. And yet this is a great film. All the performances are spot on (even Debbie Harry is great against type), and it's full of humour, not black death-defying humour but the life-affirming humour of everyday life. Additionally, the film is wonderfully constructed, both in the skill with which it moves between scenes and also in the larger way the story in told (the entire plot is structured around an eventual suicide that is only implied) - cloyingness is averted through the confidence the director has in the tale and the cast. Death is surely never this romantic, but in its own way this film is as harrying as Mike Nicholls' 'Wit'. A painful film, but one that makes you glad to be alive.
Something very positive happens in Hollywood and Indy films lately. Strong
female roles ceased to be rare roles that are usually portrayed by Jodie
Foster. More and more, lately, there is an abundance of strong female
characters and more importantly, many actresses who can do these roles the
justice they (both roles and actresses) deserve.
Today there is a tremendous buzz over Scarlet Johansson (assuming she
waste it all on "The perfect score" which hadn't been released in Israel,
But Scarlet is not the only member on the ever growing list of actresses
their 20's with the maturity I'll probably never have (and I'm entering to
my 30's), other actresses that pop into mind are Piper perabo (Lost and
delirious), Maggie Gylenhaal (Secretary, Mona lisa smile) and Thora Birch
(American beauty, Ghost world) to name just a few.
In this film a "new" actress named Sarah Polley (she has the filmography many veteran actresses wish to have) emerges successfully from the pernicious world of child acting into a mature woman for her age which is, coincidentally the basic premise of the character she portrays.
Ann is a 23 year old mother who is notified that because of a malignant tumour, her death is near. Ann decides, after her initial shock (maybe the best scene in the film) to accomplish a couple of assignments before passing away, one of which is to conceal the fact of her illness from her family in the rationalization of sparing them the endless hours of waiting in hospital friendly corridors and consuming hospital gourmet food. Ann spends the last two months of her life patching things with her long incarcerated father, develop a romantic fling with a pensive heart broken guy (Mark Ruffalo) and looks for an agreeable sucssessor mother to her family, among other things. This film has the idea and the cast to make it one of the best films 2003 had to offer but somewhere along the line, the emotional charge that this plot encompasses never comes to full exploitation and i found myself wondering if the movie's writer/director Isabel Coixet (i have no idea how to pronounce this name), in her attempt to make the movie optimistic and not just outright depressing, wrongfully decided to avoid emotional obstacles in her script and her direction. Another detail that bothers me in the film is what I refer to as the "Hollywooditis decease". This decease is a terminal one, but those who get it look absolutely great until the very last day of their lives. I don't pretend to be a doctor but it seems to me that a person with terminal cancer can't explain his/her fatigue simply by Anemia, Ann's cover story.
But I dwell on the negative and in films its usually a dumn thing to do. The right thing to do is to make the overall judgement, the film is undoubtly good, Polley's performance is excellent and Debby Harry (Blondie's lead singer) is surprisingly good, but the movie leaves the viewer with the feeling it had the potential of being a masterpiece, which it isn't.
8.5 out of 10 in my FilmOmeter
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The young Ann (Sarah Polley) has a simple, but happy life with her
husband Don (Scott Speedman) and her two daughters, Penny and Petsy.
Ann works as a janitor in the nightshift, cleaning the rooms of a
university, Don builds swimming pools and they live in a trailer in the
backyard of Ann's mother. When Ann goes to the doctor expecting to be
pregnant, she is informed that indeed she has a terminal cancer,
lasting a maximum of two weeks. She hides the information from her
family and prepares for her death, making a list of ten outstanding
subjects in her life, including preparing tapes for the birthdays of
her daughters until they are eighteen years old; eating and drinking
whatever she wants; telling only the truth; finding a new wife to her
husband; visiting her father in the penitentiary; and making love with
When I started seeing this movie, I immediately recalled Michael Keaton's "My Life". But indeed, only part of the storyline, regarding a terminal ill person preparing for the death, is similar. It is impossible not adoring "My Life Without You". The first point for loving this movie is the outstanding direction of Isabel Coixet and performance of the cast, having inclusive the uncredited and magnificent participation of Alfred Molina, as the father of Ann, in one of the most touching scenes along the film. I do not know the criteria of the Academy to select the nominations for the Oscar, but I believe Sarah Polley deserved at least a nomination for her acting. The story, although dealing with a delicate theme, is very beautiful, sensitive, positive and never corny, due to the sensibility of Isabel Coixet. The two young girls (Jessica Amlee and Kenya Jo Kennedy) are amazing, being very natural and convincing in their performances. The soundtrack, with sad but lovely songs, completes this wonderful film. I have never heard about Siamese babies of different sexes, but I am not sure whether it is possible. My vote is eight, but I am not sure whether I am being fair.
Title (Brazil): "Minha Vida Sem Mim" ("My Life Without Me")
This film was such a wonderful surprise. Great acting, writing and
direction at a perfect pace. I can't believe this movie went by as
quickly as it did.
It sounds corny and cliché, but "My Life" truly spoke to me. Both endearing and engaging, the story took me on a fulfilling emotional journey.
The cast is brilliant, and Sarah Polley has proved beyond a doubt that she is an actor extraordinaire. Her performance is well worth high praise.
You will not be disappointed.
MY LIFE WITHOUT ME (2003) ***1/2 Sarah Polley, Mark Ruffalo, Scott Speedman, Deborah Harry, Amanda Plummer, Leonor Watling, Julian Richings, Maria de Medeiros, Jessica Amlee, Kenya Jo Kennedy, Alfred Molina. Polley gives a remarkable performance as a young wife and mother who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and with the few precious months left to her own devices she decides not to tell anyone but instead attempts to live life by her own guidelines including taking a lover (Ruffalo in a genial turn) and setting her family up with a new mother figure in the form of new next door neighbor Watling (who gives a heartrending speech about her occupation as a nurse) and in the process realizing just how important it is to live life each day as if it were indeed your last. Director Isabel Coixet adapts Nanci Kincaid's short story 'Pretending the Bed is a Raft' with clear-eyed sharpness allowing the ultimate heartbreak to occur off-screen and instead focusing on the funny and poignant pangs her protagonist silently endures. A real gem that reminded me of the '70s golden age of indies.
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